Choices: What Will We Choose series, Trusting God

Choices (series): When Culture and God Collide

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I’ve spent the last few months reading through the book of Jeremiah. The thing that struck me was how many times God gave His people the choice of whether or not to forsake their idols and worship Him. As I read, I realized how many times we have choices to make. In our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and especially with God. These next few weeks I will be sharing a 5-part series on choices (Read other posts here). I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what helps you make wise choices.

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I don’t envy the prophet Jeremiah. At all.

He prophesied in a time when people didn’t want to hear his words. He was obedient to speak all that God gave him. And his was an unpopular message.

In Jeremiah 27, God gave Jeremiah a message for the new King Zedekiah. Words that grated against everything their culture believed. The culture told Zedekiah (and Judah’s inhabitants) that this land was theirs. They were to remain at any cost.

But Nebuchadnezzar.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had other plans for the nations surrounding his own.

And God.

God had warned Judah dozens of times that they needed to turn from their idolatry and wicked ways. He sent prophets to exhort Judah and its kings to turn their hearts back to God. In love, He tried to persuade His children to turn back to Him.

But the people.

The people were so far gone on their way of living. They relegated God to a back corner, all but invisible. Except when they wanted to pull Him out and say something like,

“But God said . . . . ”

“Our God promised . . . ”

They wanted comfort more than obedience. 

They chose to live for pleasure rather than for worship. 

And God was done with their pretense.

Jeremiah shared a radical message with King Zedekiah. His words opposed everything the people of Judah wanted. They wanted to stay in their Promised Land and live the way they wanted. Not the way God instructed.

I imagine Zedekiah was a young guy when he became king. He surrounded himself with the sage voices of their culture. He listened as they declared God would give them the victory. God would help them to defend their land.

But Jeremiah.

I always wonder what Jeremiah felt as he stood before the king, sharing this message that contradicted everything the cultural pundits proclaimed. Nervous? Scared? Angry?

His message was to (gasp) go willingly into captivity in Babylon. Not to fight it. God said He would bless those who surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar.

What?!

Jeremiah was probably the only voice contradicting culture. He was the man no one wanted to hear because his words were hard. They didn’t make sense.

Everything the king and the people believed, saw, and heard declared one message.

But Jeremiah’s words?

His words made no sense at all.

After all, God gave them their land, right? Surely He wouldn’t want them to leave it.

Surely He would protect them . . . Right?

We live in a similar culture. Anyone who knows the story of the United States’ founding can witness to God’s hand bringing this nation into existence.

Our culture declares many things:

  • We’re free to be our own person.
  • We can believe and act how we want without repercussions.
  • We don’t have to believe God’s word.

And it’s all good.

Our culture conveys many messages that contradict what God says in His word.

And unless we know God’s word—and believe He is who He says He is—we can’t discern between His truth and the lies our culture tells us. 

There are times when what we see, hear, and understand make perfect sense. The message resonates in our hearts, our minds. We grasp it as truth. 

And then God speaks to us—whether through His word, a message we hear through a pastor, or in our hearts—and it makes no sense.

At. All.

We may need to surrender something we’ve held onto.

A belief, a possession, a job, a hope or a dream . . . or something else.

It makes no sense to let it go. Everything around us urges us to hold onto it.

But here’s the rub, if God says to let it go—to surrender that thing—we’re wrong to cling to it. No matter what everyone tells us.

We must make the choice.

Sometimes, holding onto that “good” thing will bring far more trouble than if we had let it go when God directed us.

God told the people of Judah that, for those who surrendered to King Nebuchadnezzar, He would bless them in the land of their captivity.

For those who fought or ran? God would punish them.

We always have a choice. Sometimes what looks like the harder choice is the better decision in the long run.

What about you? When have you had to make a difficult decision? When have you chosen God’s way over what culture says is best?

Click to Tweet: To choose wisely we must know God’s perspective

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth

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24 thoughts on “Choices (series): When Culture and God Collide”

  1. Loved this, Jeanne, and the pictures are just perfect.

    I don’t pay much heed to modern secular culture, save giving it a cheerful wave with one extended finger.

    Back in the day, I was part of a more focused world, the ethos of which was roughly defined by, “Everyone comes home, or no one does.”

    In those days it meant exactly what it said. You brought out the bodies, or the bits you could find. Trophies were not left for the little people to gloat upon. Remember Mogadishu?

    It’s a bit different today, but not THAT different. Every stray dog or cat that crosses our path has a home, period. And Barb knows that if I could do it, I’d have a couple of refugee families living with us.

    Plenty of room, as long as you can lay out a bedroll. We don’t need more.

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    1. I love that you have such a heart for stray dogs and cats and people, Andrew. Your passion for those who are picked on inspires me. Yours is one of the biggest hearts I’ve encountered. Praying for you, friend.

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  2. I love your reflections on Jeremiah’s story, and this is an important challenge. The voice of culture can scream so loudly at times and the pressure to conform to those around us can be great. It is important to make sure that we’re listening to the right voice, and to be willing to stand out and be different when God calls us. For me this is often in the little things- choosing to see the good in someone rather than join in with criticism or looking for ways to encourage people and build them up rather than tearing them down.

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    1. Yes, Lesley. The voice of culture does scream, doesn’t it? You hit on the important point. We need to make sure we’re listening to the right voice. And to stand out and be different . . . yes. That takes a little bit of brave to do. But, when we know what we stand for and we’re not shy about it, that’s when Jesus shines more brightly. I suspect many of us have those “little things” we can do that encourage people. We just need to be diligent in doing them.

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  3. This is powerful, Jeanne. The culture around us is so demanding and we truly need God’s perspective to make the right choices. God’s bottomless mercy and patience to the Israelites and to us amazes me. This reminds me of what I read this morning in Romans 12 – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” As always, I love your photos. I was especially drawn to the stream and rocks. 🙂 Love and hugs to you!

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    1. I agree with you, Trudy. God’s ongoing mercy toward His children—especially when they/we are wayward—is amazing. What love He has! Romans 12:1-2 are such good ones to use as a standard for making choices! Thank you for adding this to the conversation, my friend. I hope you have a lovely Tuesday! Love and hugs back! 🙂

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  4. Oh to be the voice that sounds different than the rest. Jeremiah led the way in a time that everyone else wanted the exact opposite. I love how this mirrors today’s culture.

    I pray that I can be that voice that speaks up through the lens of God’s perspective. Great thoughts! I’m looking forward to the rest of your series.

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  5. I’m also in Jeremiah, Jeanne, and at the rate I’m going, I’ll be there for a long while yet. Like you, I”m amazed at the hard job God gave to Jeremiah and his stalwart faithfulness in carrying it out. His prayer life amazed me too.

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    1. Michele, how fun that you are reading in Jeremiah too. 🙂 Yes, Jeremiah’s prayer life amazed me too. Reading Lamentations right after Jeremiah this time around really opened my eyes to his heart for his people and his struggle in fulfilling his calling.

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  6. Good morning, Jeanne! You’ve brought this Old Testament prophet to life, you’ve given us some important lessons. I’m slowly reading through the OT, and will be thinking of this post when I reach this book.

    Thanks for taking me to a sometimes difficult to navigate section of the Bible. I tend to stay cozy in the NT …

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    1. I’m so glad, Linda. Isn’t it funny how you can read a book in the Bible so many times, and then you read it again and it’s as if you never read it before? That’s how Jeremiah’s been for me this time around.I hope when you get back into the OT it comes alive for you. 🙂

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  7. “In love, He tried to persuade His children to turn back to Him.” That is such an important teaching for today’s world Jeanne! I always loved Stephen Covey’s principal—seek to understand and then be understood. I think Jeremiah understood the people too, who were not following God’s ways, and guessing he didn’t have an ‘us against them’ attitude which I think can cause more division rather than point (force) the truth. Staying in our truth but still loving others in cultures we choose not participate in is, I believe, being the truth.

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    1. Lynn, great thoughts. I like those words by Steven Covey. They make a lot of sense. I’m guessing you’re right about Jeremiah . . . that he didn’t have a divisive mentality. He wanted his people to repent so they wouldn’t have to face the severity of God’s wrath. He was for them.

      And this part of what you said: “Staying in our truth but still loving others in cultures we choose not participate in is, I believe, being the truth.” Spot on, my friend.

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  8. I sat in the left lane at a red traffic light the other day. There was a long line of cars behind me. The person next to me in the right lane was waiting for traffic to clear and when it did, he made a right hand turn on red, which is legal. The lady in the car behind him wasn’t paying attention to the traffic light, only the movement of the car in front of her. When she noticed him turning she blindly accelerated straight ahead through the intersection, as did the next three cars behind her. None of them realized the light was still red.
    Following a crowd that is blindly taking the wrong path places us in jeopardy. The spirit of reprobate in the world today has taken people so far into sin that they are unmoved by the Holy Spirit and have no idea where they’re headed. Following anything but Christ will prove to be an eternal mistake.

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    1. Gene, this story could have ended so, so differently. We have red lights in our culture too, don’t we? How many times do people speed through them? Your observation about our culture is accurate, in my opinion. So many people follow blindly, not paying attention to what’s really real. I’m realizing more and more the necessity of praying for people in my life who don’t know Jesus and for the boldness to share with them.

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  9. Jeanne, your site is a safe place to land and learn. I enjoyed this beautiful autumn walk that reminds me we should know the Word so well, we’ll recognize when something we’re told goes against it. Obedience is best.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

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    1. Awww, Wendy, thank you for your kind words. I’m with you. We need to know the Word so well that we recognize when we hear something false. I always appreciate your visits. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  10. Great post! With truth becoming so distorted and turned away from…there is even more reason to be firmly grounded in God’s word and to know right prinicples and His perspective. And, as well, to teach them to our children and be willing to speak up for the next generation of believers behind us! Thanks Jeanne – hope you are having a great week!!

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    1. Yes, Jennifer. Teaching godly values to our children is key. As mine begin the dance with the teen years, I’m praying hard that the values we’ve encouraged and lived out take root in their hearts, and that they own their relationships with God.

      I am having a great week! I hope you are too!

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  11. I love the way you spell this all out, Jeanne. And this: “Sometimes what looks like the harder choice is the better decision in the long run.” Such an important truth, for us as adults and also for our kids. Oh for the wisdom to discern God’s voice and the boldness to follow His leading, even if it makes no sense. I’m looking forward to reading the other posts in this series, my friend.

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    1. Lois, I find it so challenging to help our boys to see that sometimes the harder choice is the better choice. So often, they like we (as adults) go for the easy way out. Then we discover new messes we weren’t expecting. It’s a constant learning to seek God and His ways over the culture’s ways. Thank you so much for stopping by, my friend!

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